Celebrating 10 Years of Katy Perry’s History-Making Pop Era, Teenage Dream

Untitled design copy 2.png

By Tiffany Carbon

Fans of pop music have seen countless stars rise and fall, some more expected than others. Women have always, rightfully so, been the face of pop music. Artists like Donna Summer, Cher, Diana Ross are all some of the leading pioneers of pop. In the 70s, these women went on to dominate and shake the world with their music while planting the roots for generations of pop girls to come. And in 2010, Katy Perry proved she was ready to follow in their footsteps with the release of her third album, Teenage Dream, an album that once set the expectations for other pop records. 

2 years earlier, she had introduced herself as Katy Perry for the first time with One Of the Boys, her sophomore album. With hits like “I Kissed A Girl” and “Hot and Cold”, she piqued the public’s interest and became known for her attention-grabbing singles. Her music was catchy, new, and controversial -- and she had a number one song. 

Yet, that still pales in comparison to her Teenage Dream era which she kicked off with “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg. It was an immediate summer radio hit while also sitting pretty at number 1 on the charts for 6 weeks. She amped its popularity even more with the music video, a sultry and erotic spin on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which famously features her laying almost nude on a plush pink cotton candy cloud, like the iconic album cover. The disco and funk influences from her pop ancestors were clear on “California Gurls” and the perfect introduction to the new areas she was taking her sound. She followed that up with “Teenage Dream”, a dream-like fantasy filled with lyrics describing the youthful innocence that comes with the start of a relationship. And just like “California Gurls” the song skyrocketed and went number one. Even after two number one singles from an album, Katy Perry wasn’t done. Teenage Dream went on to produce 3 more number ones, making her the first woman in history to achieve that. 

“Firework”, an unforgettable dance-pop power ballad, was played everywhere from weddings to graduations. Even more than before, Katy Perry was on everyone’s mind, rising to the ranks of and holding her own against other pop girls of the time. “E.T.”, the fourth number one, took a darker tone with elements of hip hop and dubstep, along with another version featuring Kanye West. She ended her winning streak with “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), a fun, upbeat, dance-pop song about partying.

Teenage Dream was one of the most successful eras in pop music history - something that should have cemented Perry’s place as one of the main pop girls. And for a while, it seemed like it did. In 2013, she released Prism and saw similar victories. Singles like “Roar” and “Dark Horse” topped the charts, sold millions of copies, and earned Perry her second and third Diamond certified songs. After two extremely triumphant album runs, Katy Perry had the public and music industry eating out of her palms. 

Then she released 2017’s Witness. Maybe it was the new set of producers she was working with, the underwhelming collaborations, or her persona change, but Witness lacked something essential that her two previous albums had. Yet, even while not being as acclaimed, her KatyCats still got the album to number one. At the end of her 2018 Witness Tour Perry announced she was taking a break from music. In that time away, she had a surprise feature with Daddy Yankee, released a couple of standalone singles, and in 2020 she made her return with “Daisies”, the lead single off her sixth album, Smile. While Smile arguably shows her at her more mature, many felt like it was yet another letdown. It performed moderately well and debuted at number 5, but produced no hit singles. Five years ago, no one would ever expect Katy Perry, a 13-time Grammy-nominated artist, and former international superstar to eventually release, not one, but two, forgettable albums.

She had done everything and more that pop stars were expected to. She had the fun over-the-top performances, crazy and raunchy red carpet looks, a silly public romance turned marriage turned divorce, headlined a Superbowl, and a dramatic celebrity feud. Katy kept her name and image in the spotlight and her fanbase continued to support and love her, yet that still didn’t seem to be enough. The pop industry is known to chew up and spit stars out when they’re bored of them, and Katy Perry just happened to be the next victim. 

Pop very quickly evolves - sounds and expectations change and many artists struggle to grapple with and ride through those changes. With Teenage Dream, Katy reached her peak and has since struggled to top that. But maybe, she doesn’t need to. Katy Perry already made her history and thought she might not be as celebrated as before, there’s no denying her impact on the pop girls that have since come after her. Pop stardom is notably harsh to maintain, but the industry loves a good comeback era. Given her history, I think Katy Perry has another good pop album in her - even if it’s hidden very, very far down.